The city of Moscow, Idaho, known for its liberal community and home to the University of Idaho, has settled for $300,000 with three Christian churchgoers who filed a lawsuit after their arrest during the Covid-19 pandemic. Gabriel Rench and Sean and Rachel Bohnet alleged their First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated when they were arrested for not wearing masks at an outdoor “psalm sing” held by their church, Christ Church.
The arrests, captured in footage that went viral and spurred criticism from then-President Trump, showed Rench’s hymn book being confiscated before his handcuffed escort to the county jail where he and the Bohnets were detained for several hours. They were charged under the city’s extended health ordinance, despite its exemption for activities protected under the U.S. and Idaho State Constitution, including religious activity.
In a significant ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Morrison C. England, Jr., criticized city officials for overlooking the exclusionary language in the ordinance and declared that “plaintiffs should never have been arrested in the first place.”
Despite the legal victory, Rench expressed his sense of alienation within his predominantly liberal community since the arrest and subsequent settlement. He told Fox News Digital that he sees the issues in Moscow as a “microcosm” of wider national concerns. He perceives a growing targeting of Christians by certain political groups and governments, with some pastors even being jailed for holding church services.
Rench further highlighted the necessity for change at the grassroots level, encouraging citizens to reconsider their voting habits and work against the targeting of those defending the Constitution. He stated, “I was obeying the law. The political system doesn’t want to give away their power, and they think if they admit they’re wrong, they look at that as like they’re losing their political power.”
The city’s liability insurance provider, Idaho Counties Risk Management Program (ICRMP), deemed the $300,000 financial settlement as the best resolution to the lawsuit and to avoid protracted litigation.
Senior pastor of Christ Church, Douglas Wilson, drew a parallel between the lawsuit in Moscow and the Department of Justice under President Biden targeting people of faith. He suggested that private citizens are under increasing financial threat from government resources across all levels. “So basically, we’re dealing with the weaponization of the justice system,” Wilson said.